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3 reasons to shred your documents

Shredding documents may not be too high on your priority list of things to do. However, shredding your confidential documents is important for a number of reasons.

  1. Protect your identity: Sensitive documents and mail that you put in the trash can leave you vulnerable. With identity theft on the rise, shredding documents that contain your confidential information is one easy way to protect yourself.

  2. Save space and declutter: Your home office can quickly become overrun with paper if you don’t take care of documents on a regular basis. Removing old documents makes it easier to find what you need, and you’ll benefit from saving on storage space.

  3. Easy to dispose: Shredded paper is easy to dispose of, and can often be simply recycled.

  4. Bonus reason: If you’re a business, shredding documents is an important way to protect your customers, employees, and ultimately yourself. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) provides guidelines on collection and use of personal information, and places the responsibility of document destruction on business owners, with legal implications if there is a security breach.
     

What should you shred?

Anything that contains your personal information, particularly your name, address, phone number, or email address should be shredded. How long you store documents depends on your unique situation and personal preferences, but here’s a general guideline for you to follow:

Shred after seven years

  • Tax returns: The Canada Revenue Agency states that tax returns and supporting records must be held for a minimum of six years from the end of the tax year to which they relate. That means in practice, most people hold their tax document for a period of seven years in order to avoid accidental early destruction.

  • Any supporting documentation for taxes: Any receipts that support your claim must also be retained for seven years. That includes bank and credit card statements that you’ve provided as proof of business expenses or charitable donations.
     

Shred after one year

  • Bank and credit card statements: While you may hold on to statements for more than a year for tax purposes, or to evaluate your long-term spending, generally one year is sufficient. Need to hold them longer? Sign up for paperless statements through online banking, you will have seven years’ worth of online statements held for you in one convenient location.

  • Pay stubs: Hold your pay stubs for one year, so that you have an opportunity to verify against your T4.

  • Utility Bills: Unless you’re using them for tax purposes, one year should be sufficient for you to review your utility usage throughout the year.
     

Shred in less than one year

  • Voided cheques: Hold on to voided cheques until you’ve reviewed your statement or verified them online. If you’re using mobile deposit, we recommend holding your cheques for at least 120 days.

  • ATM receipts: These can be shredded after you’ve reconciled withdrawals and deposits with your bank statement.

  • Sales receipts: Some receipts you may wish to keep longer (for warranty purposes), but everyday receipts can be shredded once you’ve verified against your bank and credit card statements.

  • Old photo ID: Shred old photo ID as soon as it’s replaced.

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